Hidden - Loic Dauvillier, Marc Lizano, Greg Salsedo

Hidden is a difficult graphic novel to read, not because of any trouble with the form or style, but because of the subject matter and the incredible ability of the authors/illustrators to show a wide range of emotions in their characters, both in action and facial expression. The hope of the young protagonist juxtaposed against the horrific backdrop of war and shown in relation the obviously manufactured attempts by adult figures to hide the true dangers being Jewish during that period of time, creates an emotionally complex story that reaches out and begs to be picked up and read.

The novel opens on Elsa, a young girl who can't seem to sleep. She wanders through the darkened house only to see a light on in the living room. When she arrives there, she sees her grandmother sitting on the couch, flipping through what appear to be old letters and photos. She is obviously sad, which Elsa picks up on very quickly. Being so young, Elsa is persistent in trying to understand what her grandmother could possibly be so sad about. Eventually her grandmother begins telling the story of her childhood in Paris during WWII.

Dounia (Elsa's grandmother) is a rather happy and carefree child, going to school, spending time with her best friends, and enjoying the fact that her father has come home alive after one particular battle. Upon arriving home one particular afternoon, the mood in the house seems rather... off. Her father is sitting at the table smiling, but her mother looks quite upset. Her father explains that they have become a family of sheriffs and so they must all wear a sheriff's star wherever they go. Dounia can't understand why her mother thinks this is such a terrible thing! But she soon realizes things have changed since her star was sewn onto her coat. She must now sit at the back of the class, and she is never called on for answers. She isn't allowed to play games with other children during recess, either.

It doesn't take long four Dounia to see how bad things have gotten in Paris, with doors being slammed in her face, random people being beat up and kicked into the street by military men, and graffiti defacing the many shops she used to walk by. Late one night she is forced to huddle in a hidden compartment of her parents' wardrobe when the policemen show up to take her away. Her father is taken, and her mother helps her escape to the neighbors, the Pericards, who eventually take care of her when her mother disappears.

This is a no-holds-barred examination of the life of a young girl trying to navigate a terrifying landscape without parents, but with the help of friends. The illustration style is unique and crosses boundaries between adorable and heart-wrenching as we see the expressions and emotions so richly displayed throughout the text. This is a book that will give young readers access to an awful historical event through an accessible format and richly constructed illustrations. 

Highly Recommended


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